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Archive for the ‘Favourite Performers’ Category

by Allan Fish

Not too long ago, I recall Sam sending me a link to an upcoming series at Manhattan’s Film Forum about the great Japanese actresses.  Various works would be highlighted accommodating the five women who they saw as the queens of Japanese cinema; Isuzu Yamada, Kinuyo Tanaka, Setsuko Hara, Machiko Kyo and Hideko Takamine.  One couldn’t argue with their description of these as greats, each one of them a shoe-in to any serious film lover’s Hall of Fame.  And yet I recall thinking “what a wasted opportunity“.

At the end of the day one could hardly blame the Film Forum management for going the obvious route.  Had the season been done a decade earlier Takamine wouldn’t have even been there as the films in which she was best showcased, for Naruse, Gosho and Kinoshita, were unavailable or even unknown in the US at the time.  The Forum had to make money, as who would come to watch films they have never heard of.  Yet it was a series that should have made me yearn to be Stateside and in the end it wasn’t.  The reason was that other Japanese goddesses were too noticeable by their absence.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

I think it was Richard Burton who once said that he always had trouble playing a drunk, because he could never remember how he acted when he was drunk.  Drunks on screen have been a fixture on screen since the beginning.  Indeed, it was his drunk act in Fred Karno’s London show that Mack Sennett saw and caused Charlie Chaplin to be invited to Hollywood.  He arrived, wasn’t recognised by Sennett, then promptly did the act again.  He was hired.  Drunks stayed at the heart of silent comedy and Chaplin’s in particular.  His short masterpiece One a.m. is a ballet of perfection, an extended version of that Karno drunk act.  In The Cure he gets everyone drunk, while in City Lights Harry Myers couldn’t remember…we’re back to Burton again.

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by Allan Fish

It was in a casino, somewhere on the East Coast, if memory serves.  Kathy Moffat is round the roulette table and has just squandered a fairly large amount in one spin of the wheel.  Her lover Jeff Bailey observes dryly “that’s not the way to win.”  She looks back at him quizically; “is there a way to win?”  “There’s a way to lose more slowly” he replies.

In Hollywood’s roulette game, there were stars who you knew were there for the long haul; Stanwyck, Crawford, Davis, even Hepburn, in between being declared box office poison at her actual peak.  Others just came to the table, put everything on either black or red and kept doing so until they lost.  Then they’d pick up their bag, make for the exit and never be seen again.  Some never really gave a proverbial fig.  Others were pre-destined it seemed to roar through the sky like a comet and ne’er be seen again.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

Under the entry for Jacques Becker’s look at post-war Parisian youth Rendezvous de Juillet, Leonard Maltin’s Film Guide tells the reader to “watch closely for an unbilled 18 year old Capucine.”  He’s not wrong to do so, for she’s there, amongst the students at a gathering, but I might venture to say that the real pearl was not Capucine at all.  While nominated female stars Nicole Courcel and Brigitte Auber (later the thief in To Catch a Thief) were fine, too, it was rather another girl, only 17 at the time of filming who is also to be glimpsed, briefly going into and equally briefly during an acting rehearsal, probably as an extra. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

It may seem a strange choice of caption; surely the Actor for All Seasons was the great Paul Scofield, who immortalised the role of Thomas More both on stage and in 1966 on screen.  To the vast majority of people, the idea of anyone else playing the role seemed unthinkable.  Even Charlton Heston, who desperately wanted the role – and eventually did a solid job in a TV remake in 1988 – was unable to shift Fred Zinnemann’s insistence on Scofield repeating his stage triumph.  Scofield was one of the great actors of the 20th century, a dyed in the wool Labour supporter who refused knighthoods not once but three times, before finally accepting the non politically orientated Companion of Honour a decade before he died.  There was even something wonderful about him playing opposite Wendy Hiller, very much his female equivalent, a stage titan, but a rare one that perfectly understood the vagaries of screen acting so much each of their screen performances was to be treasured.  Even so, I mourn the real More.  Scofield was 43 playing a man well into his fifties, and while every inch deserving his Oscar (the only performance of that year to challenge him was Per Oscarsson’s in Hunger), I still have reservations.  Or maybe it’s just me playing those infernal word games.  André MORE-ll. (more…)

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